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Schools see WASL trend heading up

South Whidbey High School teacher Dave Nelson teaches trigonometry to some of the 10th-grade students who took last year
South Whidbey High School teacher Dave Nelson teaches trigonometry to some of the 10th-grade students who took last year's WASL. Ten percent more of this year's 10th-graders met or exceeded state math standards than the previous year.
— image credit: Gayle Saran

More South Whidbey 10th graders were above state academic standards last year than the class before them.

In reading, writing, listening and mathematics, more of last year's sophomores made the grade in Washington Assessment of Student Learning. The WASL is a statewide assessment test designed to measure whether public school students have mastered the state's learning requirements in reading, writing, listening and mathematics. The assessment, which includes multiple-choice, short-answer and essay questions, is administered to fourth, seventh and 10th graders each spring.

For last year's seventh graders, the scores were about the same in reading and listening and about 5 points lower, on average, in math and writing.

Among fourth graders at South Whidbey Intermediate School, scores remained about the same in reading and listening, but some changes occurred in math and writing.

Seventh graders, who first took the WASL as fourth graders in 1999, the number achieving or exceeding standards increased in writing and listening, dropped in reading and remained fairly steady in math.

Overall, South Whidbey administrators are pleased with the results.

"We had significant increases this past year," said high school principal Mike Johnson. "Much of the credit goes to the students for understanding the seriousness of the test for us in developing the appropriate curriculum."

The WASL is part of a comprehensive assessment system used by all schools in the state to measure student achievement of academics and knowledge. By 2008, all 10th grade students will be required to meet WASL in order to graduate.

"The WASL is not a graduation requirement at this time, but will be in the future," Johnson said. "So, our challenge was to motivate the students to do well.

The school did that motivation by issuing certificates to students who met the state standard.

This year's seventh grade class will be the first class required to meet the standards on the WASL to graduate.

Johnson says the data is helpful for teachers and administrators to make adjustments in curriculum and to work with individual students needing help in specific areas."

School administrators are interested in students who have been with the district through a couple of testing cycles. South Whidbey's assistant superintendent, Dan Blanton, said the WASL has been given enough at this point to give it a history, allowing educators to make meaningful comparisons between student scores over the years.

"Those are important numbers," Blanton said. "They show the longer a student is with us the better they are doing."

The 10th graders who first took the WASL as seventh graders showed significant improvement this year in reading, math and writing, while their scores remained steady listening portion of the test.

For fourth graders who took the test in 1999, and again this year, the number achieving or exceeding the standard increased in writing and listening, dropped in reading and remained fairly steady in math.

The total number of South Whidbey 10th graders who took the test last spring was about 196; the number of seventh graders was 175 and 145 fourth graders took the test.

According to information from the Washington State Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, gender makes a difference in test results. In mathematics, girls and boys tend to achieve at the same level across grades. in reading, girls score higher than boys in all grades. Scores for boys declined in grades four and seven in writing. Overall, girls score much higher than boys in all grades.

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